MOSCOW -- The Russian hunger for American blue jeans has prompted black-market entrepreneurs to begin turning out counterfeits - Soviet-made jeans with phony 'made in the U.S.A.' labels sewn on.
The price of blue jeans, either genuine or counterfeit, is up to 200 rubles on the black market, or $275 at official exchange rates, a level that the newspaper Socialist Industry complained Sunday was 'something immoral.'
The cost of jeans is even higher than it sounds, since 200 rubles is the average monthly pay of an engineer or other skilled worker.
The situation is comparable to an average American worker $1,000 or more for a pair of denim pants.
Brand-name blue jeans, corduroy pants and leather jackets are the most popular items for the black-market smart set.
'It's not a whim of fashion, which is often hard to explain,' Socialist Industry said, 'but a strange trend: what's expensive is fashionable, not the reverse...
'There's something immoral in the fact that a girl who hasn't earned a ruble in her whole life can spend a month's salary of an engineer or a specialized worker on a pair of canvas pants.'
The jeans situation in the Soviet Union is not new. The latest wrinkle is the sale of counterfeits.
Socialist Industry reported the counterfeiters manufacture lapels, buttons and other bits of hardware duplicating foreign companies' trademarks, then fasten them to Soviet jeans.
Russian-made denim products are readily available, with jeans costing about 45 rubles (almost $62) per pair. They often fit poorly and wear badly, however.
Possibly some of the counterfeiting takes place with the customers onnivance, Socialist Industry indicated.
'One young girl who previously bought Soviet-made jeans with foreign labels for 200 rubles was asked if she would buy a well-made pair of Soviet jeans for 45 rubles,' the newspaper's reporter wrote. 'She hesitated, but when I offered to put brand-name labels on them she nodded her agreement.'
Socialist Inudstry said this exhibits a disturbing trend, that some young people think anything imported is 'prestigious.'
'Unfortunately there are groups of young people who ... assess their fellow workers only by what kind of U.S.-produced jeans or wristwatches they have or what kinds of cars they drive,' the newspapersaid. '...All these 'prestige' goods have nothing to do with ethics or morals.'